ricciardo2019

Daniel Ricciardo

This affable Australian lit up Formula 1 from the moment he arrived thanks to his permanent smile and increasingly impressive performances. Backed by Red Bull throughout his graduation through the junior formulae, it was the 2014 comparison with multiple World Champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel that helped confirm Daniel Ricciardo belonged at the sharp end of the grid.However, competing with the youth of the grid has prompted Ricciardo to make surprise and premature decisions that have ultimately forced him out of a full-time seat in Formula 1. 

Early racing career 

The son of a first generation Sicilian émigré, Ricciardo raced an elderly Van Diemen Formula Ford in Western Australia from 2005. He graduated to Formula BMW Asia a year later thanks to a scholarship and won twice at Pattaya’s Bira Circuit as he finished third overall for Eurasia Motorsport. He also started a couple of British Championship races in August and was fifth in the category’s World Finals at Valencia having switched to Fortec Motorsports. 

Only seventh in the 2007 Italian Formula Renault 2.0 standings for RP Motorsports, Ricciardo joined SG Formula for the following season’s Eurocup and Western European Championships. He scored a total of 14 race wins but lost the former title to Valtteri Bottas at the final round. Some consolation came with the WEC title – the first championship success of his young career. 

Now part of the Red Bull junior programme, Ricciardo joined Carlin Motorsport for the 2009 British Formula 3 Championship. A double victory during the opening weekend at Oulton Park set the tone and another four wins delivered title success once more. Those performances clearly impressed his sponsors for he tested an F1 Red Bull RB5-Renault at Jerez for three days that December. 

From the archive

Ricciardo had made his Formula Renault 3.5 debut at Portimão in 2009 with Tech 1 Racing and he remained with the French team for a full campaign in 2010. He converted pole position into victory in Monaco and won twice more as he challenged for the title. He won the opening round of the Barcelona finale but lost the championship to Mikhail Aleshin when the Russian passed him on the penultimate lap of Race Two. 

Formula 1 with HRT and Toro Rosso 

Further F1 tests with Red Bull and Toro Rosso followed during that winter and the Australian was nominated as the latter’s reserve driver for the 2011 F1 season. He drove for ISR Racing’s F.Renault 3.5 team – when his Friday F1 testing duties allowed – with another win on the streets of Monte Carlo the highlight. However, Red Bull wanted to evaluate Ricciardo’s F1 race potential so he was eased into the back-of-the-grid HRT team from the British GP. He accepted the inevitably uncompetitive opportunity with good grace and Ricciardo did enough to warrant a Toro Rosso race seat for the following season. 

That 2012 campaign began with Ricciardo surviving a chaotic last lap (that included passing team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne) to snatch ninth in his home race. However, a botched start lost the benefits of his impressive sixth on the grid in Bahrain. The team was bolstered by the arrival of technical director James Key and Ricciardo scored another three ninth place finishes to claim 18th in the final standings. 

Ricciardo and Vergne remained with Toro Rosso for a second season in 2013 and that proved to be a final audition for promotion to Red Bull. These former British F3 champions had initially been evenly matched but Ricciardo’s qualifying pace now gave him the edge. Seventh in China and Italy were his best results to date as he beat Vergne into 14th in the championship. That proved crucial when Red Bull’s Mark Webber announced he was retiring from F1 at the end of the season. 

Ricciardo delivers on his promotion to Red Bull Racing 

Ricciardo replaced his compatriot for the 2014 World Championship although the Red Bull RB10-Renault was out-powered by its Mercedes rivals. However, he shone nonetheless as team-mate and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel struggled to adapt to the new turbocharged formula. And on the days when the fates conspired, it was Ricciardo who benefited thanks to his exemplary tyre management. He passed Nico Rosberg’s brakeless Merc with two laps to go in Montréal to score a popular breakthrough victory. That was followed by back-to-back victories in Hungary (coming from third to first in final laps) and Belgium so Ricciardo finished in a solid third place in the final standings. 

Any hope of building on that success was hindered as the relationship between Red Bull and Renault visibly deteriorated during 2015. It was only on F1’s tighter circuits, where engine power was less of a premium, when the team fought for podium finishes. Ricciardo was third in Hungary and second in Singapore, having qualified on the front row for the latter. Eighth in the championship represented a backwards step, especially as team-mate Daniil Kvyat narrowly beat him in the points. 

In 2016, Kvyat was replaced part-way through the season by Max Verstappen, who began to pressure Ricciardo’s position as team leader. The Australian finished that season third in the championship behind the Mercedes team-mates. In 2017 Red Bull slipped behind Ferrari in the pecking order with Ricciardo and Verstappen finishing fifth and sixth in the drivers’ championship and not featuring the title fight despite the revamped regulations. The Australian took just one win all season in a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix though was unfortunate not to win in Monaco following a botched Red Bull pit stop handing victory to Lewis Hamilton.

The following season turned out to be Ricciardo’s final with Red Bull as the team put its focus onto Verstappen for the future. Both drivers won two races apiece all season but a series of unreliability crippled Ricciardo’s season and he slumped to sixth in the championship. He departed for Renault the following year.

Dead end at Renault

A move to Renault followed with one eye firmly on the future. The French team was slowly clawing its way from the back of the pack to a more competitive position and had finished the previous year a distant fourth in the team’s standings.

2019 was not what he had hoped for though as a lack of pace brought his first winless season since 2015. A season best finish of fourth came at the Italian Grand Prix.

2020 was only slightly better as the global pandemic brought a truncated season. Ricciardo returned to the podium twice, scoring a third-place finish in the Eifel and Emilia Romagna Grands Prix. He finished the season fifth in the championship but was on the move once again for 2021.

Switch to McLaren ends in disappointment 

After two fruitless years and without a clear path back to the front of the grid emerging at Renault, Ricciardo swapped allegiances to McLaren for 2021.

Joining as an experienced race winner, there was a lot of expectation from both sides that the marriage would help take McLaren to the front of the grid, yet that soon became a distant dream.

Partnering young charger Lando Norris, the Briton had the measure of his vastly more experienced team-mate during their first season together where he finished 45 points above in the standings and out-qualified the Australian 15 times to seven.

Although for the large part of the season Ricciardo struggled for competitiveness, it was him, not Norris, who capitalised best at the Italian Grand Prix to give McLaren its first win since 2012.

Lining up on the front-row behind ex-team-mate Verstappen, Ricciardo took the lead off the line before the Dutchman retired on lap 25 after a collision with Lewis Hamilton at the opening chicane.

This gave opportunity to Norris to eventually take second en route to McLaren claiming the first, and only, one-two of the 2021 season.

However, Ricciardo’s win at Monza was just one good thing in a season full of disappointment and so the new regulations for 2022 brought optimism that things could change.

But things did not really change and Ricciardo entered the summer break 57 points behind Norris after scoring points in only four races from a possible 13.

In addition to that, during the first half of the season Ricciardo had only managed to out-qualify his team-mate twice, while even being comfortably beat on both occasions – Spain and Monaco – when Norris was suffering badly with tonsillitis.

Therefore, after a disappointing season and a half, the decision was made to terminate Ricciardo’s deal early, replacing him with fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri. 

Due to limited options, Ricciardo was unable to secure a full-time seat in F1 for 2023, choosing instead to join Red Bull as a third driver. 

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